Amazon Music HD/UHD Confusion


I have Amazon Music Unlimited and a Sonos Connect Gen 2. I want to listen to the best quality stream (over my hifi), which is Ultra HD on many songs in Amazon. However, I can’t get a clear answer from Amazon or Sonos on how to do this, AND verify it’s actually happening. Going round in circles as they blame each other on support calls.

The situation is if I start a UHD song from the Amazon app on my phone and play it on the phone speaker it reports as UHD all the way through (when you click on the UHD badge and look at the stream>output page). So, ok...I am getting UHD and my network is up to the job. However, if I stream the song to the Connect then the same screen reports Audio Quality: Unavailable and also says “streaming quality is not available while casting”.

If I then look at the Sonos app now playing screen there is just the Amazon Music logo, no HD or UHD logo at all.

If I go the other way, and start a known UHD song on Amazon from the Sonos app then I do get a HD icon on the Sonos now playing screen, but no UHD icon. Sadly the interface is rubbish so it’s far from ideal. Plus, I want it to play UHD quality.

Naturally all my settings are set for best quality. Can anyone please advise on how to actually tell what quality the Connect is receiving (and playing out) on my hifi? It seems such a trivial request to know I’m actually getting what they both promise but for some reason neither can help.


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54 replies

It’s your choice of course, but personally I’d never let the HD/UHD issue stop me from listening to the tracks I want. It’ll be the same mastering come what may, and 16-bit depth is quite sufficient for final delivery in a domestic listening environment.

For ultrasonics, yes. Do dogs also have a superhuman dynamic range?

No.  Not range, just mange.

I can hear the difference when my screen shows me what I'm listening to.

It’s your choice of course, but personally I’d never let the HD/UHD issue stop me from listening to the tracks I want. It’ll be the same mastering come what may, and 16-bit depth is quite sufficient for final delivery in a domestic listening environment.

Me neither. There is no way you would be able to tell the two apart in a blind test.  Your dog may be able to, but he’s not telling.

Userlevel 2
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I wanted to ask you people, do you hear the difference between HD (16 bit, 44.1 Kbps) and UHD (24 bit, 48 Kbps)? I certainly don't, and that's why I'm perfectly fine with HD.

I too am human and from the planet ‘Earth’.😀

Earth

 

 

Greetings from Jupiter. Maybe we can learn from each other.

 

 

Userlevel 7
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Went looking for a CD quality chart, not an exact match for the above but close.

 

 

I can see why my SonosNet is happier passing 16 / 44.1 audio than 24 / 96 audio, about 1/3rd the data.

Yeah, I fully agree. CD quality is fine. But I pedantically wanted to know what I’m getting and why I can’t confirm I have what they both promise in their marketing? Hopefully someone somewhere in Sonos and/or Amazon will understand how helpful to end users it’d be to be a little bit more slick and transparent in this area. I appreciate your help.

Well, you do know what you’re getting, from Amazon Music in the Sonos controller app. As we know, the current playing track is badged HD/UHD/Atmos. 

I do agree, however, that it might be helpful if the Sonos controller could display the format beforehand, at least in the case of spatially mixed content like Atmos.

As already noted, selecting music solely on the basis of whether it’s UHD vs HD makes no sense.

Userlevel 4
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Just to add that if you have a Gen 1 or 2 Sub attached to the speakers you will only ever get HD, despite what the compatibility page says.  This is an open bug.

Well, after several months Sonos got around to mentioning that the Gen 1 and Gen 2 subs are not compatible with UHD.  Makes me wonder if they just gave up with trying to resolve it.

“Sonos products must be running S2 software in order to play Ultra HD audio and Dolby Atmos. Ultra HD audio playback is not supported on Connect:Amp, Play:1, Play:3, Playbase, Playbar, Sub (Gen 1), and Sub (Gen 2). Dolby Atmos playback is supported on Arc and Beam.”


https://support.sonos.com/s/article/3248?language=en_US

Userlevel 6

Just to add that if you have a Gen 1 or 2 Sub attached to the speakers you will only ever get HD, despite what the compatibility page says.  This is an open bug.

The compatibility page has been updated:

Ultra HD audio playback is not supported on Connect:Amp, Play:1, Play:3, Playbase, Playbar, Sub (Gen 1), and Sub (Gen 2).

Which is still technically incorrect as the older Subs will play Ultra HD when bonded with an Arc and possibly Beam, just not individual speakers or stereo pairs.

Support still said a fix was coming but on another thread here, it was stated it would never work.

But for audio, there is no audible difference brought in by the HD format over what has been delivered for decades now via CD quality. 

In Amazon parlance ‘HD’ is CD quality.

(The same goes for Sonos Radio ‘HD’.)

I wanted to ask you people, do you hear the difference between HD (16 bit, 44.1 Kbps) and UHD (24 bit, 48 Kbps)? I certainly don't, and that's why I'm perfectly fine with HD.

I too am human and from the planet ‘Earth’.😀

Earth

 

@Kumar: Just to clarify, the comparability issue I raised is that Sonos for months represented that the Gen 1 sub and Gen 2 sub were compatible with UHD when they were not. When I initially called Sonos support months ago because my Gen 2 sub that was bonded with my Gen 2 Play:5s were not getting UHD (even they were identified as compatible), I was told it was simply a badge display issue and they were working on a fix.

 

This does sound like misrepresentation by Sonos and should entitle you to a return/refund beyond the normal 100 days period for this.

But here is the thing - of all the good things that the Sub does, being able to play silly numbers that make up Hi Res Audio would still be a useless feature even if it could. So why return it and cut your nose to spite your face would be the thing to think about.

Note that all I write refers to just music - TV audio with Atmos etc are a different beast that is of no interest to me and I see no need of Sonos products in my home for that use case. So I can’t comment on that side of things.

The Amazon Music Unlimited service costs the same, whether you listen to UHD, HD, or SD. So with or without the UHD badge you wouldn’t be losing out.

And, given the practical resolution of the Connect’s DAC, the signal-to-noise ratio of the analog stages from there onwards through your amplifier, and the ambient noise levels in the average domestic listening environment, you’d not miss those extra 8 bits anyway. So, my recommendation would be to simply enjoy the music and sleep easy.

So long as the closure does not end if/when the UHD label disappears:-).

Userlevel 7
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Marcellus H. Not sure on your math there but everything I try comes up about like the chart.

https://www.omnicalculator.com/other/audio-file-size

 

 

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Or when your WiFi channel gets too congested to pass the fatter data-stream required and it either dials back or starts stalling out.

 

I’d love an option in Sonos to not negotiate any stream connection at above CD quality unless nothing else was available.

I’d love an option in Sonos to not negotiate any stream connection at above CD quality unless nothing else was available.

Yeah, that’s been a standard feature of LMS for at least 10 years now. 

Also, the new WiiM Mini features it for the Optical output, which is bit-perfect up to 24/192, and supports casting from the Amazon Music app at HD and UHD in beta, due for production rollout in a couple of weeks.  Also supports Tidal Connect, Spotify Connect and Airplay 2.  Can even be a full-fledged member of Alexa groups.  For $89, there’s finally a device that offers some real competition to Sonos.  Competition is always a good thing.

  For $89, there’s finally a device that offers some real competition to Sonos.  Competition is always a good thing.

Sounds just the thing for folks that don’t want expensive speakers with bundled smarts, that become obsolete just because the smart tech has moved on to a better place, making the whole speaker obsolete.

PS: Above said, and if one were to look beyond the Hi Res Kool Aid, what will this do that the much cheaper Echo Dot cannot?

  For $89, there’s finally a device that offers some real competition to Sonos.  Competition is always a good thing.

Sounds just the thing for folks that don’t want expensive speakers with bundled smarts, that become obsolete just because the smart tech has moved on to a better place, making the whole speaker obsolete.

PS: Above said, and if one were to look beyond the Hi Res Kool Aid, what will this do that the much cheaper Echo Dot cannot?

It has an optical output, which is bit-perfect up to 24/192, to drive a quality DAC. It can also act as a UPnP endpoint at the same bit-perfect resolution, for use with excellent software such as LMS and Audirvana, etc.  It supports AirPlay 2, can be part of an AirPlay 2 group. It supports Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect, so that those can be used with their native apps. It supports Amazon Music HD and UHD from Amazon’s native app, and from Alexa voice control. No more lossy streaming, other than Spotify, for the moment. If Qobuz ever gets around to a Connect, you can bet it will also be supported.  It also has a highly responsive development team, which has its modules and firmware in millions of devices already, including Yamaha sound bars and Edifier smart speakers. In short, Linkplay, the WiiM owner, is not going away anytime soon. 

I’m still taken aback by the difference in the average file size for just a 3 minute ALAC lossless audio track encoded at 24/48 and 24/192 audio - I will personally never be able to hear the difference for anything over 16/44 anyway. I’d just be guessing if there was no ‘badge’ to tell me what I was listening to.

So I think all I really need is another App that allows me to change the ‘badge’ on the ‘Now Playing’ screen of whatever App I’m using to play the audio on my Sonos speakers.. ha😀

 

Userlevel 3
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UHD will only work if started from the Sonos app, but unfortunately I can’t tell you whether the Connect Gen. 2 does actually support UHD. If you only see an HD badge it seems it doesn’t. 

Thanks, Sonos say it does support. I also have Sonos Ones as a stereo pair. The same happens with them. And they definitely support UHD.

Userlevel 6

Thanks, Sonos say it does support. I also have Sonos Ones as a stereo pair. The same happens with them. And they definitely support UHD.

Do you have a Gen1/Gen2 sub bonded with the Ones?

If no sub bonded, the Ones should show Ultra HD badge when playing. If you let the track play for a couple of minutes, does the Sonos app then show UHD for the Ones? Don’t group the Ones with the Connect as likely the Connect is restricting the stream to HD.

As already noted, the Sonos controller can sometimes take a minute or so to show HD or UHD. This is while the player is discovering the reliability of the stream, before it can switch to a higher gear.

FWIW casting a UHD track from the Amazon native app to a Sonos player is always in HD (CD quality), whatever the app says and whatever the capabilities of the target player. (The same goes for Airplay from the native app on iDevices.) So basically if you must have UHD you need to start the stream directly from the Sonos controller.

Sonos support said yesterday that the Connect Gen 2 will support UHD. Their own page also confirms:

https://support.sonos.com/s/article/3248?language=en_US

I am guessing from the above by ratty that the stream is never designated good enough by the Sonos kit to play UHD. I do not have a sub and I am not grouping the Ones with the Connect.

Noting that if I must have UHD I have to start the stream from the Sonos app, it would be helpful if Sonos fixed the interface to say the track quality somewhere. It’s guesswork currently. It all feels like a WIP with Amazon so maybe I’ll look elsewhere for UHD as free trials are available on the other services.